Updated: Apr 6, 2021
Holy Covid! I don’t know about you but over the last several weeks (if not months) I've heard about so many relationship challenges ~ couples together 24/7 trying to make it work, family members with different beliefs around Covid restrictions, missed holidays & generalized anxiety have been getting to a lot of us. People are tired, frustrated, & with that it's easy to end up in an argument or tense dynamic.
You are not alone. I promise.
Some good news? Overcoming challenges is like pouring concrete into the foundation of a relationship. When you cultivate mutual understanding, respect, forgiveness, & love in these times you are building stronger more powerful connections. It's not always fun, nor easy, but it's totally worth it.
Let's be real, we could all use joy & compassion these days. So, why not clear the air & get little more breathing room? This isn’t about fixing every little blip in your life ~ but if you've been fixated on a conversation & replaying it in your mind ~ addressing it in a healthy way will, at the very least, bring you some peace.
The Bump in the Road
We all know the feeling. We're out with a friend or at a family gathering & someone says something that shoots us straight into anxiety, frustration, or just plain hurt. Or, perhaps you find yourself walking on eggshells & making choices to passively or actively get away from someone in your life.
Of course, you don't need to please or be friends with everyone. But... if a relationship matters to you or the person matters to you, then wouldn't it be better for everyone to resolve the conflict sooner then later? The hardest part is often getting over ourself, our pride, or our hurt.
These 8 tips will help you steady in yourself so you can clear the air with care & respect (for both yourself & others).
1) Get into a Healthy Head Space
When the hamster wheel in our head starts spinning it can be hard to stop. You get fixated, replay the conversation, feel sick to your stomach, & focus either on anger, hurt, or guilt. Before any resolution can be found you'll need to get your head back into a more resourceful state.
Step Back: A fixated mind is not going to solve the problem. Give yourself some space from the situation & focus on something else.
Get Connected: Do something that brings you a sense of joy & gratitude. Watch a funny movie, get out in nature, dance it out, or hug a tree... whatever works for you. When you do something that feels good (brings joy, gratitude, connection) your brain & nervous system shift. You become better able to handle stress, employ processing, & meet your challenges from a clear state instead of from survival mode.
2) Benefit of the Doubt
Do you care about this person? Does this relationship matter to you? Do you matter to you?
If you answer yes to these questions then it’s important to give all parties the benefit of your doubt (& yes I’m including you). We all make mistakes, sometimes it’s out of ignorance & other times because we are triggered. By giving someone the benefit of the doubt you are basically freeing up your mind to see the bigger picture, to learn, to understand. By giving yourself the benefit of the doubt you are telling yourself - maybe I made a mistake but I believe in myself to learn & grow.
3) Get Clear with You
What is the specific thing that you are concerned about? If someone said something that upset you what were the specifics around it, the words, tone, etc? How did you interpret this, what emotions are present & what do you think it means?
When you ask yourself these questions you begin to take ownership of your feelings & interpretations. Remember interpretations of another's motives or character are interpretations. They may or may not be accurate. When you recognize these as your perspective it creates space for understanding ~ including learning how your own thoughts & perspective may contribute to your personal pain. By owning your experience you access the possibility of inner steadiness & peace.
If you get stuck & feel righteously that you did nothing wrong or find your self overwhelmed with generalized guilt you are likely hitting a blindspot. Talk to a friend, a coach, a therapist & give it time. The truth tends to have a steady tone in the body & often comes with a sense of humility & understanding.
4) Clarify Your Intentions
Why do you want to clear the air?
Intentions based on mutual understanding, respect & care create a powerful foundation for learning & growth. If however, you feel a tone of 'making them wrong', 'proving you're right', manipulation, seeking validation, or wanting to punish in some way pause & take note. It's amazing when you notice these little 'agenda' based intentions because it gives you space to consider & resolve them for yourself. This will in turn, help you meet the other person with honesty & respect.
Sometimes when we get clear on a situation our need to 'talk' resolves. Other times, it is important to have a conversation. Be mindful of timing both for yourself & for the other person. Give space for both parties to process a situation & understand this time may be different for the two of you. If your intention is mutual understanding & respect that includes respecting their need (or your own) to process feelings.
Your conversation may arise organically when you feel connected & comfortable with the other person or it may require some planning. Do your best to have the discussion in a private space when all parties can be present without distraction.
5) When you Speak
How you speak will effect both how you are heard & how you will demonstrate your intention.
Begin with kindness: Share your intention or appreciation of the other. If this is difficult take a moment to acknowledge their willingness to have the conversation.
Be Specific: Speak to specific behaviour, personal experience, & leave out blame & character assassinations. This is a time to explain your understanding & experience as clearly as possible from your perspective.
“When you said “ You’ve always been too sensitive” I felt sad & hurt. Hearing that I felt more sensitive & insecure & what I want to feel around you is safe because you & your opinion matter a lot to me.
“When you froze up in our last discussion I felt really confused. I thought we were having a good conversation & then something shifted.” My sense was that you were upset but I didn’t understand why"
Take Responsibility. Own those behaviours you recognize have contributed to the tension or argument. Own it & sincerely apologize for it. This opens the gate for more mutual understanding & willingness to grow
“I realize I lean on you a lot & that lately I’ve been mostly just talking about me. I appreciate how much you listen & I’m sorry that I have been so one sided in our conversations. My sense is that it has been a lot & I’m sorry for that.
“You left & I could tell you were upset. I sort of froze & wasn’t sure how to approach you. I wanted to call sooner & felt that perhaps you wanted that too. I’m sorry I wasn’t in touch sooner”
6) When they Speak
Engage the other person with the willingness to learn & understand.
Listen: Listen with the intention to understand.
Reflect: Reflect key points of what they say to ensure your understanding.
Ask: Ask questions when you don’t understand or need further clarification. Give them space to get there.
“ Could you please clarify what you mean when you say______?”
“ What I think you’re saying is ___________, is this what you mean?”
Respond: When they have finished a point & you are clear on your understand respond to this.
Forgive & move on. When you have worked through the difficulty & there has been resolution then it's time to forgiveness. This means both forgiving them & forgiving yourself.
Forgiveness is a choice. It doesn't mean condoning harmful behaviour or relinquishing natural consequences. What it means is that you are willing to allow the corrosive anger, guilt, hurt go. In relationship it means choosing to continue forward in whatever way is truly right for the two of you.
8) Bring Back Some Light
When the conversation is over do something light & enjoyable. If you have reconciled (even if it still feels awkward) do something pleasant together. If there has been a different decision & more space is needed do something kind & joyful for yourself ~ buy yourself some flowers or take a delightful bubble bath.
Relationships take work & in times of greater stress things can get dis-connected at times. These times can be really sweet opportunities especially in those relationships that matter. By coming back to yourself & facing the challenge with grace & care you might just find that your relationship becomes even stronger.
About the Author
Amy Thiessen is an international teacher, coach, & musician who focuses on helping individuals connect to their confidence, purpose, & self esteem through voice & communication. Offering a holistic approach Amy helps individuals uncover & overcome their unique blocks around voice & communication, connect to their self esteem & purpose, & ultimately express themselves in a way that is empowered & impactful.
1:1 coaching is the fastest way to overcome your blindspots & find deep & more impactful expression. Book a FREE consult to see how In Resonance Coaching can support your full expression today!.